Celtics win after spotting Rockets huge lead
The Celtics trailed the Rockets by 20 points at the end of the first period on Thursday but came back to win, 99–98. It’s the fifth time in team history that Boston trailed by at least 20 points at the end of the first quarter in a home game, and amazingly, the Celtics have won four of those games. The Celtics were never down 20 at the end of the first quarter at the old Boston Garden. The three other wins were against the Bulls in 1997, Raptors in 2000 and Miami in 2016.
Rockets lose fourth in a row
The Rockets have lost their last four games, the longest skid immediately following a winning streak of 14 or more games in NBA history. Over those four games, James Harden has produced 165 points and 41 assists. No other player in NBA history has had that many points and assists over a four-game span, all in losses.
Someone other than Antetokounmpo or Middleton leads Bucks in scoring
Eric Bledsoe led the Bucks with 26 points in their comeback win over the Timberwolves on Thursday night. Milwaukee entered the final period trailing by nine points, but outshot Minnesota, 63% to 21%, to win by six points.
Bledsoe was the first player other than Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton to lead the Bucks in scoring in a game this season. The Bucks had never previously gone as many as 33 games into a season before having their third different game-high scorer.
Spurs starting lineup all produces
All five Spurs starters scored at least 14 points in their win over the Knicks on Thursday. It was only the seventh regular-season game under Gregg Popovich, and the first time since 2012, that all five San Antonio starters scored 14 or more points in one game.
Nkitilina shows his potential
Frank Nkitilina came off the bench and had 11 assists in the Knicks loss on Thursday. He’s the first New York rookie in more than 25 years to reach double digits in assists in a game he didn’t start. The last one to do that was Greg Anthony in January 1992.
Speights makes most of limited time
Marreese Speights came off the bench to score 16 points and collect five rebounds in only 15 minutes of action in the Magic’s win over the Pistons on Thursday. It’s the ninth time that Speights has produced at least 15 points and five rebounds in a game in which he played less than 20 minutes, which is the second-highest total among active players; Enes Kanter has had 10 such games.
Portland pours in 42 in final frame
The 76ers led the Trail Blazers by 13 points entering the fourth quarter on Thursday, but Portland erupted for 42 fourth-quarter points to win, 114–110. Portland had last won a game by scoring 40-plus points after entering the fourth quarter with a deficit in 1993 against the Clippers.
Capitals have tamed Bruins
The Capitals overcame a 2–0 deficit to record a 4–3 shootout victory over the Bruins, extending the Caps’ winning streak versus Boston to 12 games. They’ve matched the longest current winning streaks by one NHL team against another. The Bruins and Blues have each won their last 12 games versus the Coyotes, and the Blackhawks have won 12 games in a row against the Sabres. Braden Holtby, who made 31 saves in Wednesday’s game in Washington, has been in goal for the Capitals in 10 of their 12 consecutive wins against the Bruins.
Stamkos is a Canadiens killer…but only at home
Steven Stamkos scored a pair of goals in the Lightning’s 3–1 win over the Canadiens in Tampa. It was Stamkos’ third multiple-goal game this season and his fourth career multi-goal game against Montreal, tying Eric Staal for fourth-most among active players, behind Jaromir Jagr (7), Alex Ovechkin (6) and Thomas Vanek (5). Stamkos has scored 12 goals in his last 12 regular-season games against the Canadiens in Tampa but he has not scored a goal in any of the nine regular-season games he’s played in Montreal over the same span (December 2010 to date).
BB’s hot shooting
Brock Boeser scored his 21st goal of the season in the Canucks’ win over the Blackhawks on Thursday. With one game to play this month, that’s the most goals that a Vancouver player has had through December since Markus Naslund had 21 entering the new year in the 2005–06 season.
Vegas on a roll
The Golden Knights extended their winning streak to six games on David Perron’s second overtime goal of the season. That’s now the longest winning streak for any NHL team in its first season in the league. Two other teams had won five straight games in their first season in the NHL: the Rangers in 1926–27 and Oilers in 1979–80.
Fleury plays 700th game
Marc-Andre Fleury reached the 700-game mark in his NHL career when he started in goal for the Golden Knights against the Kings in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Fleury is the 27th goaltender in NHL history to play 700 or more regular-season games and he’s the eighth Quebec-born netminder to do so. The others are Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Roberto Luongo, Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, Rogie Vachon and Gilles Meloche.
MacKenzie’s first goal of the season is a shorty
Derek MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season with a shorthanded tally for the Panthers in their 3–2 win against the Flyers. The 36-year-old MacKenzie is the oldest player to score a shorthanded goal in Panthers franchise history, breaking the mark set by defenseman Brian Campbell in October 2015. (Campbell was 36 years old at the time but roughly six weeks younger than MacKenzie’s age on Wednesday.) MacKenzie is also the oldest shorthanded goal-scorer in an NHL game this season. That distinction had been held by Detroit defenseman Trevor Daley (age 34 when he scored a shorthanded goal on December 15).
Marner’s third three-point game this month
Mitch Marner tallied one goal and two assists for the Maple Leafs in their 7–4 win at Arizona. It was Marner’s third game with three points or more this season and they’ve all come this month. (He recorded three points at Pittsburgh on Dec. 9 and four points versus Carolina on Dec. 19.) That ties him with the Islanders’ John Tavares for the most games with at least three points this month by an NHL player. Marner is the first Toronto player to produce three three-point games in one calendar month since Phil Kessel had three in October 2014.